There are officially four weeks left in the 2017 session of the Indiana General Assembly. While high profile bills containing long-term road funding solutions, the state’s budget, and more are still being debated, many bills are already making their way to Governor Holcomb’s desk. Two such bills are Aim initiatives; SB 152, which contains our initiative to give redevelopment commissions more tools for addressing abandoned and blighted properties, and HB 1272, which gives locals more public notification options when a print publication fails to publish a notice in a timely manner.
In addition to working to move our proactive initiatives forward, this week we were able to make substantial progress addressing several pieces of legislation that could have negative consequences for cities and towns. We also made great strides in our efforts to build strong relationships between state leaders, lawmakers and municipal officials. The Aim Legislative Dinner on March 21, sponsored by Vectren, was an overwhelming success. A sold-out crowd of nearly 400 enjoyed sharing stories of progress back home and listening to several speakers address the critical role our municipalities play in Indiana’s success. Speakers included Governor Eric Holcomb and renowned author and speaker Peter Kageyama. If you couldn’t attend the dinner, you can watch the Governor’s remarks here. And be sure to check out our new video unveiled that evening, Aim: Innovation, Collaboration and Accelerating Indiana’s Municipalities!
- The Senate Republicans have spent the majority of this week discussing alternatives to HB 1002, the current road funding plan. At this point it sounds like everything is on the table and they are looking for the best plan to ensure passage by the Senate.
- We anticipate the Senate version will be more restrictive on dedicated revenue to local governments and will likely have additional restrictions on the allowable uses of new revenue.
- As anticipated, HB 1002 is heading towards conference committee where it will be one of the final bills of the session to pass. This weekend is a critical time for local officials to reach out to their Senators to provide encouragement for local funding and that any new revenue remain a dedicated source.
State Board of Accounts Enforcement Matters
- HB 1031 was amended in Tax & Fiscal committee this week and the language requiring a local unit freeze a portion of their budget for failure to correct a finding identified during an audit was removed.
- Through this bill the State Audit Committee will have several options to intervene when an audited entity fails to meet the new compliance standard within the bill.
- We will continue to watch this bill closely as it may go to conference committee. We believe the bill’s author and sponsor are in agreement that they have found common ground by all interested stakeholders and we anticipate a concurrence next week.
Small Cell Tower Regulation
- SB 213 was heard in the House Utilities, Energy & Telecommunications committee on Wednesday, March 15. The bill will return to the committee next Wednesday where it will be amended and likely voted out of committee.
- We continue to work with the communication providers and legislators on compromise language that will meet the needs of the providers while also preventing the reduction of local oversight on the appearance and location of structures in a right of way.
- We are making progress on several aspects of the bill yet providers seem more resistant to addressing aesthetic concerns and creating standards for locating in the right of way. We strongly encourage our members to contact your Representatives and inform them of the potential impact of this bill.
Posting of Roll Call Votes
- As introduced, HB 1622 would have required all clerks and clerk-treasurers to post all council roll call votes to the city or town’s website within 24 hours after the vote is taken.
- Aim actively worked with the stakeholders to significantly re-work this bill. In the Senate Local Government Committee, the bill was narrowed to 1st and 2nd class cities only, who will have 3 business days to post the information.
- If this bill goes to conference committee, we will continue to advocate to exclude municipalities that are not prepared to take on the requirements of this legislation.
Real Property Issues
- SB 558 was introduced to prohibit local governments from regulating rental/housing rates and to prohibit local governments from charging landlords and tenants for calling the police on behalf of a victim.
- This legislation impacts some municipalities’ nuisance ordinances aimed at bad landlords and could impact our ability to enforce local aesthetic design/architectural standards for residential developments.
- Before this bill is heard in the House Judiciary Committee on April 3, Aim will work closely with the stakeholders to clean up this language.
Road Funding Bill to be Voted Upon in Committee Tuesday
HB 1002 Transportation Infrastructure Funding (Soliday, R-Valparaiso; T. Brown, R-Crawfordsville; Steurewald, R-Avon; Sullivan, R-Evansville)
After a relatively quiet week on road funding, the pressure is starting to mount for movement on a long-term, dedicated, road funding plan. During his regularly scheduled Thursday press conference, Speaker Bosma hinted that legislators will not be leaving until they have passed a long term plan, calling into question the possibility of a special session. This is an early indication that the Senate is having a difficult time finding an agreeable solution.
Later that afternoon HB 1002 was scheduled as an amend and vote bill in the Senate Tax & Fiscal committee next Tuesday morning. The Senate Republicans have spent a great deal of time in caucus deliberating the current plan and identifying alternative options they believe will have enough support to pass the Senate. Early indications are that the Senate version will be less beneficial to local units of government. This will set the table for a conference committee decision that will likely be revealed on the last day of session.
Our efforts in the Senate are focused on new legislators as last year’s election resulted in a 20% turnover. The majority of the freshman senators were not part of the road funding conversation and have not been privy to the all of the research, data and presentations like some of the veteran Senators. This is why it is critically important for our members to reach out to their Senators now. Phone calls, emails, text messages, social media and attendance at town hall meetings are all needed to support local infrastructure funding.
There are four weeks left in session which is still plenty of time to pass a long term, properly funded road funding plan, as long as we don’t hit any speed bumps.
Aim Position: Support
SBOA Corrective Action Bill Modified
HB 1031 State Examiner Findings (Slager, R-Schererville)
At the beginning of session there were companion bills introduced (SB 159 and HB 1031) which both provide the State Board of Accounts with additional enforcement capabilities. The SBOA was asking for additional resources to address an audited unit’s failure to comply with recommended corrective actions based on the examiners audit findings. Both of these bills were initially drafted with language that would have allowed for punishment that resulted in the DLGF freezing a local unit’s budget, however, the scope of the corrective action has been significantly narrowed. HB 1031 was heard in the Senate Tax & Fiscal committee this week and the ability to freeze a portion of the budget was removed. At this time SB 159 is not scheduled for a hearing and we believe HB 1031 will be the only bill to move forward.
Under the current version of the bill, if an SBOA examination contains a finding that a unit is out of compliance and a subsequent report contains the same finding, the unit is required to file a corrective action plan with the SBOA. Once the plan is filed, the unit has six months to correct the identified issue. If the issue is not corrected within six months, the SBOA shall present a memo to the State Audit Committee of the unit’s failure to comply. The Audit Committee may choose to intervene by taking any of the following actions: request a statement from the local unit, request a representative from the local unit appear before the Audit Committee, request the local unit make a corrective action, notify the local legislative body of the units failed compliance, recommend legislation, recommend that the SBOA conduct more frequent audits of the unit and lastly recommend prosecution for a criminal offense.
We will continue to watch this bill as it moves through the Senate. We believe the bill’s author and sponsor are in agreement that the bill has found common ground and this is the appropriate level of enforcement needed to address those very few entities that refuse to meet compliance with audit findings.
Small Cell Towers Return to Committee Next Week
SB 213 Support Structures for Wireless Facilities (Hershman, R-Buck Creek)
SB 213 was presented to the House Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications committee on March 15 and it was held for a committee amendment. That means the bill will return to the committee members next Wednesday, March 29, where at least one amendment, if not more, will be presented to the committee members to address their concerns. The bill will likely be posted as an amend and vote, which means there will be no further testimony to the committee on the bill.
Our primary concern is that by giving the telecommunication providers unlimited access to locate their structures anywhere in the right of way, residential property owners and businesses in downtown areas will be significantly impacted. Local government involvement not only protects utilities located in the right of way but also the property owners who have a right of way connected to their property.
We appreciate that Chairman Ober, the bills House sponsor, has been willing to work with us on our concerns and that we have maintained a positive dialogue with all stakeholders on this issue. Our intent is to meet the needs of the providers while maintaining local oversight of these structures. To date, there is no opposition from local units of government that welcome this new technology which strives to meet current customer demand and attract new businesses. We disagree with remarks that this technology will help address the rural community’s lack of broadband service, as these structures are being installed in communities with very dense neighborhoods and areas where they cannot locate a large cell structure.
As the bill is likely to move out of committee this week we strongly encourage our members to contact your Representative to share your concerns and to encourage them direct the service providers to continue working with Aim to identify a positive solution. The media is also covering the issue and we are gaining more support from legislators.
Aim Position: Oppose
Bill Requires Posting of Roll Call Information on 1st and 2nd Class City Websites
HB 1622 Record of county and municipal votes (Speedy, R-Indianapolis)
Legislation to require 1st and 2nd class cities and counties with a population of 100k+ to post council roll call vote information on their websites and maintain it there for 4 years passed out of the Senate Local Government Committee this week.
As originally introduced, HB 1622 would have required all counties, cities, and towns with websites to post all council roll call votes within 24 hours after the vote. Based on a great amount of feedback from clerks and clerk-treasurers, we knew that 24 hours was an unworkable deadline. We also understand that in many cases, clerk-treasurers contract 100% of their website work out and therefore, would have to pay an outside company for this increased work.
These concerns were shared with the bill’s author, sponsors, and the members of the Senate Local Government Committee. We were successful in committee in getting the bill narrowed to 1st and 2nd class cities, who will have 3 business days to post the information. We understand a 2nd reading amendment is going to be offered to extend this to 7 business days, which we will support.
If this bill is taken to conference committee by the bill’s author in the House, we will continue advocating to exclude municipalities that do not have a person on staff who updates the website or that otherwise would experience a negative fiscal impact as a result of this legislation. Increased government transparency is an important goal, but that goal must be balanced with the resources local governments have and the benefit to the public.
Bill Calls Municipal Nuisance Ordinances Aimed at Irresponsible Landlords into Question
SB 558 Landlord-tenant relations; leases and sales of real property (Holdman, R-Markle)
SB 558 was introduced to prohibit local governments from regulating rental/housing rates for privately-owned property and to prohibit local governments from imposing penalties against landlords and tenants for requesting law enforcement assistance on behalf of victims.
As written, Aim has several concerns about the impact of this legislation. Many municipalities have nuisance ordinances that are used to bring actions against irresponsible landlords who are not adequately overseeing their properties, e.g. excessive numbers of code enforcement and law enforcement calls out to the property for all sorts of crimes and violations. SB 558 calls these ordinances into question, so Aim is working with stakeholders on language that would allow locals to continue enforcing these ordinances that are being used to successfully to clean up problem properties in communities.
There is another section of the bill that would prohibit local governments from enforcing local regulations that “have the effect of establishing a sales or lease price.” The intent of this language is to prohibit local governments from requiring developers of private land to set aside a certain number of units or plots for affordable housing. The way the language is written, however, could have unintended consequences for local governments who have aesthetic and design standards that contribute to a higher sales or lease price of properties. Aim is also working to clean this up.
SB 558 will be heard on Monday, April 3, in the House Judiciary committee. We are hopeful we can reach an agreement with the stakeholders before then to ensure that current processes local governments are using – both on the nuisance issue and the sales/lease price issue – are not negatively impacted.